International Writers Magazine:Euro Travel
new in old Amsterdam?
on board our flight back to Bournemouth"
BACK to Bournemouth? surprised I looked around closely
inspecting my fellow passengers. Does this mean the crew is confident
that no one would leave Amsterdam for Bournemouth unless there
is an absolute necessity to return home
were a few Dutch people around. Hope they were jumping with joy and
singing with happiness when they bought their tickets to Bournemouth,
just as I did when I got mine to Amsterdam.
Amsterdam! Everyone knows of the city? but
How much do we know about it?
How different can it be from England, since Holland is situated just
across the Channel?
How different can the Dutch, with their soft: "Got morham"
and passion for good cheese, be?
Loads to my astonishment.
First, to be precise, its Netherlands not Holland! Even though
the world Holland it often used by even Dutch to denote the entire country.
Holland is a central-western part of Netherlands divided between two
provinces (North (Noord-Holand) and South (Zuid-Holand) and makes up
roughly 13% of the area of the country. It is considered that the word
Holland is derived from holt land ((wooded land) but we spotted no wooded
areas around there)). We didnt travel beyond the county so my
reference to Holland here is politically correct. We (when I say "we"
I mean my husband Richard and myself) visited Amsterdam and Leiden,
and in 4 days did enough walking to worn out 2 pairs of shoes each.
This made us to appreciate the idea of Dutch "clogs" and bicycling
Bicycles. I never been to China but it is, interestingly, one of the
countries I would draw a parallel of similarity with Holland because
of the extensive use of bicycles
All ever imaginable types of bicycles
The numbers were unimaginable
stores of tightly packed bicycles at the major travel stations
day time. Impressive. Bike lanes predominate (place being mainly
flat helps) and bicycles take priority. They seem to appear from
everywhere and move fast. Richard said that he was feeling safe
from bicyclists only when standing on the tram lines or on a bike
Japan may also be
a country to draw another parallel with Holland. Why Japan? Because
not only the Japanese love eating raw fish - so too do the Dutch. Raw
herring (actually enzyme-cured) is a typical Dutch delicacy. It is sold
from fish vans and very popular. Good break (Dutch KitKat really) when
you need to relax and revive -you dip it in chopped onions and then
lower it down your mouth holding the tail with your fingers. Just as
simple as that. Very good for you. Very Dutch. Yes, integrating into
the real Dutch life comes at a cost - forcing down (to wash off that
fish) oh gosh, the local beer (hard way of life.) Strange, locals serve
their white beer with lemon. To get a better feel of it you have to
have plenty of it. To appreciate fully. To get the feel, you understand.
And there is much more in Amsterdam for an amateur traveler.
First museum on our way from the train station was Sex Museum. (and
this is well before the Red light district). Though we gave it a miss.
Also there is a Marihuana museum.
Flower market sells starter packs of cannabis (penalties are stiff if
to try to export). Open use of marihuana is arguable as it is one of
the drugs to develop physical dependancy upon. Whatever Dutch argument
for use is, I, however, wouldnt want my son to stay here during
his gap year in case he develops a strange passion for botanical studies
(like growing cannabis). "Growing solutions" are widely presented
across the city. Intellectual discussions around the subject probably
do continue at local coffee shops. Warning here! Amsterdam coffee shops
(not to be mistaken with English! which I honestly wasnt aware
about and learnt in a hard way) are in other words cannabis cafes.
P.S. In Amsterdam, coffee shop means a place where cannabis is openly
sold and smoked. Though soft drugs have not been legalized in the Netherlands,
it is tolerated when used discretely. Hard drugs are strictly
prohibited. So please be careful not to get into one when looking for
a quiet cup of coffee.
There are though many different kinds of "normal" cafes -where
people eat and drink traditional foods. Good place suggested by many
guide books is the Pancake Bakery House. It is famous for their, as
you have probably guessed, delicious "best in the town" pancakes
(crepes of a size of a good big diner plate which are flavored with
syrup or international sweet or savory filling) and very Dutch Poffertjes
(tea-spoon sized pancakes which are traditionally served warm with lots
of powdered sugar sprinkled on top). The place is very Dutch, a bit
cramped and smoky, and is easy to find. It is about a block away from
the Anne Frank House and the Westerkerk. Alternatively choose a nice
café by a canal.
Canals are everywhere. Amsterdam has about 90 islands, separated by
100 kilometres of canals and linked by about 400 stone bridges! Not
a surprise the town is known as the "Venice of the North".
Walks along the canals are very pleasant, no traffic and easy to navigate
yourself. If lost just ask. Everyone speaks perfect English.
Why do they bother to speak Dutch at all? Many words are similar to
English but with extra "A" like: Street is Straat, Central
is Centraal. Some words can be guessed in a context. This is not a surprise
-Dutch belongs to west wing of Germanis languages, the same language
group as English. However, it is very different as the whole way of
living. Lawrece Weiners little sculpture on a "straasse"
says is all: "A translation from one language to another - Een
vertaling van de ene taal naar de andere".
The short and long of it a trip to Amsterdam is not only very
affordable (from £1.49 per one-way ticket) but can be full of
fun and adventures. Must see places, of course, are: the Van Gogh and
Rembrandt museums (2006 is devoted to 400th birthday celebration of
its famous son). Hotel and a car can booked on the internet or found
on place as you go at the Tourist Information Centers "VVV"
(but might be a bit more expensive if not booked in advance). Transport
is very good, so nothing could stop one from traveling around Holland
and even further into Europe! The airport shuttle bus and trains depart
to/from Schiphol airport every half hour direct to Centraal Station
..So back to Bournemouth.
Thank you Bournemouth Airport for being so close! With the new prefix
"International" Bournemouth Airport brought us, country pumpkins,
many good possibilities to become if not world but European travelers
and to explore further. And it seems nothing can stop us from doing
so - our Monday September the 11th flight to Amsterdam was completely
Nice to be back. Though the taxi driver broke the news that we didnt
miss anything with regard to the weather which was grey and rainy. Back
to normal then
© Natalya Popova October 11th
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